Muholi is a visual activist and photographer born in Umlazi, Durban, and living in Johannesburg. Muholi’s self-proclaimed mission is to “re-write a black queer and trans visual history of South Africa for the world to know of our resistance and existence at the height of hate crimes in SA and beyond.”
They (Muholi’s preferred pronoun) co-founded the Forum for Empowerment of Women (FEW) in 2002, and in 2009 founded Inkanyiso (www. inkanyiso.org), a forum for queer and visual (activist) media. They continue to train and co-facilitate photography workshops for young women in the townships.
Muholi studied Advanced Photography at the Market Photo Workshop in Newtown, Johannesburg, and in 2009 completed an MFA in Documentary Media at Ryerson University, Toronto. In 2013 they became an Honorary Professor at the University of the Arts Bremen. Awards and accolades received include France’s Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2017); the Mbokodo Award in the category of Visual Arts (2017); ICP Infinity Award for Documentary and Photojournalism (2016); Africa’Sout! Courage and Creativity Award (2016); Outstanding International Alumni Award from Ryerson University (2016); Fine Prize for an emerging artist at the 2013 Carnegie International; Prince Claus Award (2013); Index on Censorship – Freedom of Expression Arts Award (2013); and Casa Africa Award for best female photographer and Fondation Blachère Prize at the Rencontres de Bamako, the African Biennale of Photography (2009).
Muholi was shortlisted for the 2015 Deutsche Börse Photography Prize for their publication Faces and Phases 2006–14 (Steidl/The Walther Collection). Other publications include Zanele Muholi: African Women Photographers #1 (Casa Africa and La Fábrica, 2011); Faces and Phases (Prestel, 2010); and Only half the picture (Stevenson, 2006). Solo exhibitions have taken place at institutions including Fototgrafiska, Stockholm (2018); LUMA Westbau, Zurich (2018); the Durban Art Gallery (a survey exhibition conceptualized as a homecoming, 2017); Market Photo Workshop, Johannesburg (2017); Glasgow School of Art (2017); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2017); Autograph ABP, London (2017); Maitland Institute, Cape Town (2017); North Carolina Museum of Art (2016); Standard Bank Gallery, Grahamstown (2016); Gallatin Galleries, New York (2016); Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool (2015); Brooklyn Museum (2015); Akershus Kunstsenter, Norway (2015); Einsteinhaus, Ulm (2014); Schwules Museum, Berlin (2014); Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown (2014); and Casa Africa, Las Palmas (2011). The Faces and Phases series was shown at the South African Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale (2013); dOCUMENTA 13 (2012), and the 29th São Paulo Biennial (2010).
Muholi produced a city-wide project titled Masihambisane – On Visual Activism for Performa 17, New York (2017) and is featured in the inaugural exhibitions at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town. Group shows include Traversees Ren@rde, Transpalette Centre d’Art (2017); The Photographic I – Other Pictures, S.M.A.K Ghent (2017); Structures of Identity, Museo Amparo, Mexico (2017); The Face: A Search for Clues, Deutsches Hygiene-Museum, Dresden (2017); Intimacy is Political: Sex, gender, language, power, Centro Cultural Metropoliano, Quito (2017); Art/Afrique, le nouvel atelier, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris (2017) Kyotographie International Photography Festival, Kyoto (2017); Personae, FotoFocus Biennial, Cincinnati, Ohio (2016); Ou poser la tete?, ICA Indian Ocean, Mauritius (2016); Second-Hand Reading: William Kentridge and Zanele Muholi, Mead Art Museum, Amherst (2016); Supporting Alternative Visions, Prince Claus Fund Gallery, Amsterdam (2016); Berlin Biennale (2016); Mina/Meg, Kulturhistorisk Museum, Oslo (2016); Systematically Open? New forms of production of the contemporary image, LUMA, Arles (2016); Reality of My Surroundings, Nasher Museum of Art, North Carolina (2016); African Art Against the State, Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown (2016); After Eden/Apres Eden – The Walther Collection, La Maison Rouge, Paris (2015); Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design, Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, and Guggenheim Bilbao (2015); The Order of Things, The Walther Collection, Ulm (2014); and After Our Bodies Meet: From Resistance to Potentiality, Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York (2014).